The prosecution will be all too happy when coverage of Assange’s extradition hearing devolves into irrelevant tangents and smears. It matters little that Assange’s beard was the result of his shaving kit having been confiscated, or that reports of Paul Manafort visiting him in the embassy were proven to be fabricated. By the time these petty claims are refuted, the damage will be done. At best, public debate over the real issues will be derailed; at worst, public opinion will be manipulated in favour of the establishment.
It pushes out how Assange’s 2010 publications exposed 15,000 previously uncounted civilian casualties in Iraq, casualties that the US Army would have buried. It pushes out the fact that the United States is attempting to accomplish what repressive regimes can only dream of: deciding what journalists around the globe can and cannot write. It pushes out the fact that all whistleblowers and journalism itself, not just Assange, is on trial here.